Columbia man totals car driving home in storm, finds tree on house

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | 6:14 p.m. CDT
A maple tree fell on Michael Stampley's home on Madison Street on Tuesday. The damage from the storm ruined his personal belongings, but he and his two dogs, Carville and Ding, were unharmed.

COLUMBIA — The storms that swept through Columbia on Monday night left Michael Stampley with two total losses. Fortunately, neither was irreplaceable.

Stampley, 30, a manager at the west side Shakespeare's Pizza, left work just after 11 p.m., after the power went out in the store. On his way home in the heavy rain, with the streetlights also out, Stampley drove his Toyota 4Runner into a downed tree laying across both eastbound lanes on Broadway near the Stadium Boulevard intersection.

"It was raining and dark. I couldn't see anything until I'd already hit the tree," he said.

Stampley continued driving less than a mile to his mother's apartment at Ash Street and Clinkscales Road, his car dragging a long branch that had smashed his windshield. The hood was smashed, the windshield frame bent, and the radiator pushed into the engine.

Anxious to check on his two German shepherds, Carville and Ding, Stampley got a lift from his mother to his house on Madison Street. He had moved into the house earlier that day.

Through the dark and the rain, they could see that his yard and the street in front of his house were blocked off by yellow caution tape. Downed power lines hung in the road, and a roughly 4-foot wide trunk of an old maple tree in the front yard had snapped near its base.

A large section of roof of the white, one-bedroom house was crushed under the maple's weight.

As Stampley took this in, he worried more than ever about Carville and Ding. He had left the dogs inside the house.

"It looked like a war zone," Stampley said. "I just thought, 'I need to get my dogs out.'"

His next-door neighbor had also just arrived home, and she and Stampley forced the back door open. Rain poured in through the holes in the roof punctured by the tree.

"It sounded like a waterfall inside," Stampley said. "The kitchen was flooded. The ceiling in the living room had completely collapsed, and the tree landed right on the couch that Carville usually sleeps on."

His house was flooded, his property waterlogged and ruined, but in the back room Stampley found both dogs scared and frightened but unhurt and happy to see him.

He and the dogs went out the back door and returned to his mother's apartment, where they tried to sleep.

Stampley has renters insurance, but he said his insurance company told him they won't assess the damage to his belongings until the structure of the house is secured.

"I had just spent $500 on new furniture and rugs for the house," Stampley said.

His landlord, Marty Smith, estimated the property to be worth $40,000. "We'd just put in new windows and redone the kitchen, painted the whole house," Smith said. Now he plans to demolish what is left of the little white house.

Stampley expects his car is also a total loss. His boss at Shakespeare's is helping him find a place to keep his dogs, he said. As far as where Stampley himself will stay, everything at this point is uncertain.

"I lost everything last night," he said. "I'll just have to take things one day at time."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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